Thank you for taking the time to read Naomi’s poem and to think and pray about the issues that she raises.
We have a lot of work to do.
We have a lot of learning to do.
If you’ve been moved by what Naomi has written and would like to “do something” to help be the change, use the “comment” box on the right side of the post to get in touch. Naomi and I and her youth group leader have been talking about some ideas – we’d love to have more people help.
In the next day or two, there will be a tab on the top of the page called “Naomi’s Prayer for Change.” That will contain a link to the entire poem as one entity so that you can print it, share it and more.
If you want to get in touch with Naomi – use the box on the right and I will make sure she gets it.
Thanks for reading, thanks for caring.
(Note: This is one opinion about one portion of the very complex and challenging problems of racism. It has been brought to my attention by people who are much more widely read than I am that this opinion varies from their view of it. So, take it for what it’s worth – the thoughts of one concerned Dad trying to make the world a better place)
So, yesterday we looked at the FHA and how the government’s rules regarding mortgage lending actually helped create ghettos and create the “seeds” of the problems that many of our big cities face. You can read about that at “Did FHA create Ferguson and Baltimore?”
Today, I want to look at a different topic – but still under the standpoint of government policies. It’s the War on Poverty.
Not the War on Terror, the War on Poverty. First a few overview highlights of the War on Poverty:
- It was started by President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s but was long seen as a “step #2” of what President Roosevelt did in 1933 to 1935 and was called “The New Deal.”
- While the statistics to prove it’s success are marginal at best, there is no question that it grew and greatly expanded the number of government programs and government subsidies that were made available to supposedly help (first clue as to who lost.)
Now two definitions for you to consider – and these are terms that those who are involved in humanitarian assistance, mission work, international development and more wrestle with a LOT.
“Hand out” – This is where someone is given something strictly because it might appear that they need it. It has no long term benefit, it doesn’t make them a better person, it just meets or appears to meet an immediate need.
“Hand up” – This is where someone isn’t given something without strings attached but instead is taught, assisted, helped through a rough time with a definitive goal of getting back on their feet and doing things for themselves.
I’m sure you’ve hear the saying, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.”
The War on Poverty had a couple of ramifications that we’re paying the price for in today’s society:
- Rather than giving those suffering from poverty the opportunity to turn their situation around and the opportunity to make their lives better, the War on Poverty consisted of a LOT of handouts. Repeat after me, “The creation of the welfare state.”
- The creation of the welfare state increased dependence on the government. It created a “class” in the American society that viewed (currently views) Uncle Sam as the “provider of all things good.”
- If Uncle Sam is the provider of all things good, what happens to the view of the men in the poverty stricken areas? They are viewed as not being as important. “I don’t need you, I’ve got my welfare checks from Uncle Sam.”
- So, for years, the black man, living in the ghetto, was sometimes subtly and sometimes more bluntly told that they aren’t important. You aren’t needed and aren’t valued, so what happens? Many turn to a life of crime – either to get more “stuff” so that people will think they are important or to have an opportunity where people are scared of them and listen to them, like they are “somebody.” Even if that somebody is a bad dude……
- Crime goes up, the cops due their jobs and what do we end up with? We end up with a prison system that has substantially higher portions of their population that are persons of color. These are people who came from the ghettos that our lending system created and our welfare system deepened.
- So we have a lot of kids who are growing up with absent fathers because their fathers are in jail. So they repeat the cycle.
So, who won in the “War on Poverty?”
Those who were “in poverty” and over the age of 65 saw a large increase in their social security checks. I’d say they won.
Those who work in the government departments that were created or expanded to administer the welfare programs. I’d say they won.
The politicians who got elected, supported and reelected because of what they would do to get “Uncle Sam’ to take care of you. I’d say they won.
The persons of color who were “pushed” to live in ghettos (see previous article) and now were given welfare by the government in ways that would get them hooked on it and not doing things for themselves. I’d say they lost.
The male population of people of color who were marginalized and criminalized due to many factors but a large component of it was that Uncle Sam took away most of the reasons they might feel needed and useful. Without feeling needed and useful, it’s easy to lose hope. I’d say they lost.
The War on Poverty – it sounds good. But the reality is far from good.
The reality is that the “War on Poverty” as a government policy, did more to hurt the structure and integrity of the family in the areas where poverty was most prevalent than it did to help it.
The government, in their “effort” to help, actually created the breeding ground for troubles like Ferguson and Baltimore.
“We’re from the government and we’re here to help.”
Yeah, not so much.
Obviously that’s way too simplistic of a view on a horrendously complex issue, but let me walk you through a couple of realities.
Reality #1 – for hundreds of years, the white people in America (and elsewhere) treated the black people in ways that no human should be treated. They were treated as property, as “less than full people,’ as people who had to “go over there” and weren’t allowed in the same places that the whites were.
As part of that separation, the FHA instituted programs that wouldn’t make it possible for black people to buy houses. This isn’t a matter of “qualifying for the loan” or any special requirements, this was a plain and simple, “If you are a “colored” person” then the answer is no.”
Reality #2 – people of color who had good jobs, people who could afford to buy a house, had no choice but to move to the cities. This had the long term effect of creating ghettoes. The people of color who couldn’t get a loan to buy a home ended up renting in the city. This created more segregation and more “rich white” in the suburbs and “not rich black” in the inner city.
Thus the ghettos were the result of mortgage lending practices instituted by the government. The rules were designed to encourage homeownership by white people and discourage homeownership by black people.
And it worked.
Now obviously, it’s a stretch to say that FHA created the problems in Ferguson and in Baltimore. They didn’t create the problems.
But they did lay the groundwork for it.
Their policies created an environment where racial isolation became built into the very fabric of our cities.
I’m guilty of saying it myself. Quite often I will have people ask me, “Is it safe to go to Haiti?”
My standard response is this – “Haiti is a lot like New York, LA and Chicago. There are places that are totally safe. There are places that are safe to go if you know where you are and you are someone who knows the area. There are also places where you JUST DON’T GO.”
You see what I did there? I just reinforced the stereotype that the areas in our big cities that are predominantly black are not safe for white people.
And how did those areas “happen?”
In large part because the government, in their infinite wisdom from many years ago, implemented housing and mortgage lending policies that, while not creating the “separate but equal” malarkey, engrained it further into our society.
That engrained policy that created the ghettoes in this country made riots in Baltimore and Ferguson possible.
As a former mortgage lender, I have to admit that I’m glad that those policies weren’t in place when I was writing mortgages, but it does not feel good to know that what was “my” industry was in large part responsible for the creation of the ghetto.
Reality #3 – The government, in this particular area, is part of the problem, not part of the solution – at least not yet.